How Complacency Killed the College Graduate (& the American Dream) + What YOU Can Do
*Important Update: A short video you have to see…
Last week my friend Adam Baker released an cool 4-minute video trailer that’s been rippling across the Internet. It’s for his documentary “I’m Fine, Thanks“, which deals with the epidemic of Career Complacency and the lives of quiet desperation that so much of the world lives. It’s a movie about the moment people realize the life they’re living is not the life that’s true to their heart… and, as a result, what they decide to do about it.
His crew interviewed over 60 people around the U.S. and I had the honor of being one of them – you should see how much equipment their 5-person crew had in my office!! (A couple fun pics below). I have a feeling the results are going to change things in a big way.
Whether you’ve already seen this or not, take a few minutes and watch this video. It will open your eyes to a problem that we can all do something about. It will also prepare you for the below article.
No topic is closer to my heart or our purpose here at Live Your Legend.
The world needs to hear this message – and then do something about it.
So in its honor, I want to cover something that I think about most every day.
In fact Live Your Legend wouldn’t exist if this wasn’t such a massive problem in our world.
But it is and here we are.
As a friend, mentor, parent, student, teacher and active participant in the world, this is a story that needs to be told – And one that is on all of us to do something about.
Let’s dive in.
“Most men die at age 25 but are not buried until they are 70.”
– Benjamin Franklin
The Day the Dream Died…
Once upon a time when we were really young, we were given permission to dream and think anything imaginable. Some of us wanted to go to the moon and others wanted to become President. Nothing was off limits. In fact we were rewarded and encouraged to think and dream in such ways.
This was life for maybe the first 10 or 12 years. But then something odd happened. The world as we knew it shifted from listening and supporting our dreams, to telling us what our dreams should be.
Words like ‘practical’ and ‘realistic’ started to get thrown around.
No longer were these invigorating ideas so well received. The older you got, the less those who mattered in your life accepted your dreams.
More and more of the ex-dreamers around you started to adopt the same new frightening language. The people you looked up to, your mom and dad and teachers, all seemed to be scheming in the same way.
Then one day, say thirty years later, you come across a freshman in high school who says he wants to be an astronaut, and suddenly you catch yourself using those same words people you admired and respected once said to you. You tell this young freshman, “It’s fine to dream but you should think a little more practically.”
You realized the second the words came out of your mouth…you’ve become what you despised.
But you can hardly blame yourself. As a kid what were you to do when everyone you trusted and respected seemed to be telling you the same thing? Naturally, you conformed to your surroundings.
Next stop is college, where you get another, much more potent, dose of practicality.
You hurriedly choose an area of study (often times spending less time making the decision than what TV you want in your dorm room). Then you proceed to be trained to be a cog in a corporate wheel. Interests, passions and dreams get traded for hopes of being the guy who can claim the best job title, company or salary out of college – forgetting that none of that shit actually matters when it comes to being happy.
At this point you probably forgot you even wanted to do something different in the first place.
The stereotypical advice becomes an all too broken record: “Go out and get a good safe job with a reputable training program and start building your resume. You can always pursue your ideas later.”
But we all know how often ‘later’ actually comes. And most of you might remember a couple week’s back Warren Buffett comparing a life spent resume building to a life spent saving up sex for old age.
None the less, we graduate and become a corporate monkey.
And as we grow into our early twenties and beyond, we slowly start to notice ourself using some new words: O.K., fine, alright, not that bad, could be worse – in response to the questions “how’s life” or “how’s work?”
Without knowing it, a dream has been killed. A fire has gone out. The passion dies.
Even worse, many forget the fire ever burned in the first place. It’s amazing how fast even a light drizzle can turn a bonfire into a pile of grey muck.
I’ve been there too…
Eight years ago, after listening to the people I respected, I found myself in a job society said I should have; great company, good paycheck— something I could really tell people about.
You know how long it lasted? Seven months, and not a day longer. And I knew within the first month I was not meant to be there. The inertia kept me there another six.
For some, the inertia, fear, laziness, whatever, keeps them working for a couple years or even a couple decades. The word “someday” quickly transforms into never. Then you awaken thirty-five years later, only to realize you got zero fulfillment out of the way you spent your time. Society didn’t benefit. You didn’t benefit. You might even be fat and lazy by now. Your family hardly saw you.
All for what? The money? The status?
What are you going to do with it now that you’ve missed half your life?
The majority of the working world (over 80% last I checked) condemn themselves to this existence of quiet desperation for the rest of their lives. The walk of the living dead has become a cultural march.
This is my nightmare.
I have spent time with far too many people living squarely in the middle of this scenario. I refuse to let it happen to me, and I refuse to let it happen to you. That’s why everyday I build upon what I do at Live Your Legend.
Complacency Is the Silent Killer
There are two reasons humans don’t change things:
1. Their current situation is enjoyable.
2. Their current situation isn’t painful enough.
Obviously, if we are all suffering from reason #1, all is good in the world. But with over 80% of people unhappy with their work, that leaves us with #2 as the culprit.
There is no more dangerous place to be. You think things are fine because everything is just “okay”. And that’s exactly how you stay in a job for a few decades, grinding out every single day.
I guarantee if your job is “not that bad” today, if you keep doing the same things, things will only deteriorate. As with anything in life, there is no standing still. Poor communication with your husband today, left unchanged, will not leave you in the same place a decade from now…
If your current situation isn’t painful enough, change doesn’t happen.
Being “fine” is not a good thing.
That is not the end goal. We are not here to be just ‘alright’ – to be average. No one benefits from a complacent life. If my friends spend their life counting down the days to the weekend, not only will they suffer, but so will I, and everyone around them (hence LYL’s tag line “change the world by doing work you love“).
But that is the root of the problem.
The school systems, college, graduate school, society and most cultures train the future generations that this complacency is a good thing. That it’s the reality to be expected.
And as long as that’s the case, over 80% of the world will remain unhappy with their work – and many of them will never find the motivation or inspiration to change. They’ll never know what it feels like to set the world on fire with work only they are capable of doing.
And we will all be worse off as a result.
But is that really what you want to work towards? All this studying, learning, doing – a lifetime of work just to be average?
I doubt it.
That path does not look pretty.
Don’t wait until the pain is unbearable. That time might never come. And what might you miss while you’re waiting?
Happiness not spent today does not equal more happiness tomorrow.
Complacently Needs to Be the New Change Agent
That is the only way to make things better.
If we believe things must be the way “they” say, then things will never change.
We must adopt the beliefs of the Passionate Worker:
- Life is an active experience. You are the driver, not the passenger.
- A job, a career and work is our chance to do something that actually matters- to you and to others. Work is not something we are meant to endure. It’s something we are to embrace.
- The world will be better if you spend your time on things that light you on fire.
- It is possible to work on passion, have fun and help people at the same time.
- Doing work you love is a right. It is not some privilege reserved for the lucky few.
- The end goal is excitement, not complacency.
Doing things differently always starts with believing it’s possible.
It’s our duty to embody these beliefs, not just for ourselves but for those around us.
It’s on all of us, as students, teachers and mentors, to do something about it.
Here’s how to start…
8 Steps to Killing Complacency & Writing Your Own Script
This goes for every one of us – both in how we conduct our own lives and how we encourage those who look up to us. Read these once as steps for yourself and then look over them again as steps of what you can do for those around you.
There’s someone looking to each of us for guidance. Live in a way you’d be proud of.
1. Encourage dreams, don’t kill them. The older we get, the less we seem to believe is possible. Mainly because the people above us, who we trust, respect and look up to, tell us it cannot be done. Listen to others’ dreams. Provide ideas. Don’t judge. Share in their excitement. Whether they’re five years old or fifty, be their support. Fuel the fire. Don’t put it out.
2. Promote constantly learning. Provide the tools to help people understand themselves. This is not the stuff taught in schools. Get them excited about learning who they are. Take personality tests. Understand strengths and natural talents. Your number one job role is always to become a self-expert.
3. Focus on strengths, not weaknesses. Spend as much time as possible learning and building upon what you’re best at. If you know what you’re good at and love doing, you are much less likely to settle for something different. Even if society tries to get you to value something else, once your forest fire catches, it’s near impossible to contain. Start the burning as early as possible.
4. Encourage constant exploration. Test assumptions. Try new things. Take nothing for granted. If ‘they’ all tell you it’s this way, ask why it’s not that way. Life is an experiment. Act accordingly.
5. Value experiences and emotions over things. When are we going to start listening to the real research behind the fact that money does not buy happiness? Come on. Racing through life to get yourself into 500k+ of debt just to ‘own’ a home is not what life’s about. How was that ever considered part of some American Dream? You should know better by now. You will never have it all. Stop worrying about it and start experiencing what matters.
6. Dream big every single day. An untended fire will eventually die. Spend a minimum of a few minutes each day entertaining and exploring your biggest ideas of what you want out of life. Think about the things that make your hair stand on end. Give the dreams attention. Tend to them like a newborn baby.
7. Act on those dreams daily. We know what happens when we put things off. Do something, no matter how small, to get you closer to that dream. Momentum is hard to notice in the beginning, but soon becomes hard to stop. It starts with starting. Watch the bricks pile up into a cathedral. No matter how tiny, create something every day.
8. Provide an environment that makes it certain. Environment is everything. If you spend your life around complacent people, you will experience the same fate. This goes for friends, coworkers, peer groups, lovers and family members. The people in your life will change your world – for better or worse. This is 100% in your control. The fastest way to do things you think are impossible is to start hanging around with people already doing them (that’s why I’m so fired up about the How to Connect with Anyone course I’m creating). Spend time around people who do things differently.
Complacency has a bigger impact on our world than we realize.
It’s the silent killer. Something has to be done.
You can either follow the broken script or write your own.
The good news is that we are in complete control of it – assuming we’re willing to take the reigns.
The above are not that hard. We can literally start doing them right this second. They can change everything. We are all a part of the solution.
Up until today, Ben Franklin has been more or less right that “most men die at age 25 but are not buried until they are 70”.
But that is not some fundamental scientific law.
All we have to do is disprove it.
You are the student. You are the teacher. Act accordingly.
This will not change on its own. Our community of 14,000 at Live Your Legend is a start. But it’s still just a start.
Think what would happen if each of you followed the above, both for yourself and for just one person close to you. And then if that person began to do the same. 14,000 quickly turns into a very very big number. Revolutions start with ripples.
What would that world look like?
We are going to find out.
I will not let past expectations limit our future. There is another way, a better way. We just have to give ourselves permission.
Permission to Explore.
Permission to Experiment.
Permission to be Who We Are.
The only thing holding us back is what others may have thought, or what others may have done in the past. But what do they know anyway? There is no rule that says we must live life and our careers the same way everyone did before us.
Quiet desperation is not a fact of life. “I’m fine” is not a way to live.
We have a responsibility to give ourselves, and the next generation, a better alternative.
Think about the people in your life who look up to you. The sons and daughters. The friends. The colleagues.
Provide an environment that makes this change possible.
Because if not us, then who?
You’re more powerful than you realize.
It’s time to start doing something with it.
Here’s to changing norms…
P.S. Here are a few shots from the shoot they did in my office. The amount of people and equipment for a ‘simple’ interview blew my mind. Impressive couldn’t describe it…